8,500 lbs of trash found at transient camp

Posted at 6:26 PM, Sep 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-17 20:26:47-04

A man who built an illegal home and dumped 8,500 pounds of trash in the forest has been sentenced to six months in prison.

In May, San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said deputies were above Telluride, on the Jud Wiebe Trail, looking for a wanted man when they stumbled upon the extensive camp.

They found skis, ski boots, clothes on hangers in the trees, a tree house/shelter, a wedding dress and much more.

"I think it gives homeless people, or people down on their luck, a bad name," Sheriff Masters said on a video he recorded. "Trash scattered over 100 yards or more. Every kind of refuse you can think of -- trash, clothing, food, human refuse, bric-a-brac, anything not tied down. Literally, tons of trash in our National Forest."

"There's a shelter, you can't even get inside, it's just packed full of trash," Master said.

Benjamin Yoho, 41, was convicted of Residing on National Forest System Lands, Maintaining a Structure on National Forest System Lands, and Leaving Debris on National Forest System Lands. He's also been banned from Forest and BLM lands.

Prosecutors say Yoho not only lived in and maintained an illegal structure in the forest from October 2014 through April 2015, but also hauled large quantities of items from the Telluride "Free Box" to the area where he was living.

It took 48 volunteers, a helicopter and several staff members from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control to remove approximately 8,500 pounds of debris.

"This was no ordinary case of littering in the National Forest – this was full-scale trashing of the public lands,  and merited a term of incarceration," said U.S. Attorney John Walsh.

"Unfortunately the defendant in this case took advantage of the charitable nature of the Telluride community and made a mockery of it," Masters said. "In the future law enforcement and citizens need to be more vigilant in controlling abuses of the 'Freebox' and other giving institutions to make certain people are not using donated items for criminal purposes."

Video of the trash: